What Are The Easiest And Hardest Munros?
Anyone planning to climb all the Munros is sure to face the challenge of a lifetime. With 282 summits spread across the Highlands and two islands - Skye and Mull - the list is numerically challenging to start with. But there is far more to it than plodding along and ticking off a list.
On the one hand, there will be walks so easy you will be amazed they count at all, while others may require levels of skill and bravery you could never imagine you possessed.
The easy end of the spectrum tends to be dominated by the more easterly Munros. These are mostly smooth, whale-backed peaks without exposed narrow ridges or excessively steep slopes, as well as ascents that start from higher up.
Carn Aosda and the Cairnwell are good examples of this. They are located at the Glen Shee ski centre, which is passed by the A93 at 2,199 ft, the highest main road in Britain. The peaks themselves are just over 3,000 ft, so there is less than 1,000 ft of easy climbing and either summit can be reached in under an hour.
Other simple peaks in the east include Cairn Gorm, which is Scotland’s fifth highest at 4,084 ft but can be climbed from the car park halfway up the mountain.
It’s not all about the east Highlands though; Ben Lomond, the southernmost Munro, is a straightforward climb and so is Ben Chonzie to the south of Loch Tay. The latter seems to be colluding in an unwritten rule that any mountain of 3,054 ft must be a simple climb, as this is also true of Beinn Bhreac in the Cairngorms and Skiddaw down in the English Lakes.
Of course, all these peaks are still to be enjoyed with all the glorious scenery, fresh air and exercise that comes with it. Enjoy them while you can, because there are others that will challenge you to the limit.
The Aonach Eagach ridge hike is perhaps the toughest on the British mainland, providing terrifyingly steep and genuinely dangerous drops into Glencoe below, while permitting access to Beinn Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaigh. With their high, craggy ridges, steep rocky slopes and numerous scrambles, the Glencoe mountains are not for the faint-hearted.
Some others are very difficult not because of any technical difficulty, but a lack of accessibility, the most extreme cases being A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor in the Fisherfield Forest, around 20 miles from the nearest road.
However, the toughest of the lot are undoubtedly the Black Cuillins on Skye. These volcanic craggy mountains are unlike anything else in Britain, an Alpine landscape of craggy, knife-edge ridges mitigated only by the easy grip afforded by the gabbro rock.
Among these, Sgurr nan Gillean is arguably the second hardest in Britain, with its extremely steep ascent to a heart-stoppingly narrow summit. But there is no argument that Sgurr Dearg, also known as the Inaccessible Pinnacle, is the hardest of the lot.
This towering, exposed knife-edge fin of rock cannot be climbed without a rope, unless you are a madman like stunt cyclist Danny Macaskill, with an abseil off the back to finish.
All this means you need expert instruction, the right equipment and more courage than you’ll have ever mustered in your life to make it. But it will also open the door to you becoming a Munro ‘compleator’.